Ask Outdoors Girl: How did the DNR draw the lines for proposed oyster sanctuaries?

March 14, 2010|By Candus Thomson

At a hearing last week in Annapolis on legislation that would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from creating oyster sanctuaries, state Sen. Richard F. Colburn, the Eastern Shore Republican who sponsored it, asked repeatedly, "How did DNR draw the lines?"

In the never-ending quest to answer such questions, Outdoors Girl has torn back the curtain of transparency to find out just how state officials chose which parts of the Chesapeake Bay would be set aside for the multimillion-dollar program to put oysters where they ain't.

Previous efforts spent $40 million (our money) while increasing the oyster population not at all. Not wishing to duplicate failure, scientists focused their efforts on 18 areas that have been successful over the past decade. Those areas are primarily north of the Patuxent River and on the Eastern Shore near the Choptank River and Eastern Bay.

Biologists chose some of the best areas but left others to the watermen, fisheries chief Tom O'Connell said. For example, a swath of Harris Creek, which backs up to Tilghman Island, was set aside for a sanctuary, while neighboring Broad Creek was left for the watermen. The adjacent waterways will enable scientists to make side-by-side comparisons of conditions and oyster populations.

"Who drew the lines?" O'Connell said, repeating Colburn's question. "We - my staff and I - drew the lines."

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